Combined, Oregon Chief Richard Stager, Lt. Brian Andrzejewski, and Officer Michael Poddany have given nearly 100 years of service to the city’s police department.
Chief Stager, who started as a patrolman in June, 1978, will have served 32 years and eight months. Lt. Andrzejewski has served 33 years, and in February Officer Poddany will be approaching 34 years.
As all three approach retirement within the coming month, on January 21 an open house will be held in the city’s community room on Seaman Road from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. to honor them.
All three say the biggest change they have seen in the department is technology.
“That’s probably the most notable change I’ve seen in law enforcement,” Chief Stager said.
Chief Stager said people and the duties involved have changed, too.
“When you took the job, it was basically arrest, apprehend, and protect and serve. Now, police work is more and more community-service oriented than before,” Chief Stager said.
In many ways, the community’s respect for the police has changed, too, and Lt. Andrzejewski says it is not necessarily for the better.
“Years ago, it seemed to be easier to do our job in some ways because, say, when you’re dealing with individuals years ago they might have lied to you or whatever, but they still respected you. If someone said the wrong thing to you or took a poke at you, we didn’t have tazers and mace and all that stuff at the beginning. You got a knuckle sandwich,” the lieutenant said.
“Now, they are not afraid to swear at you, and ‘I know my rights’ or ‘I’ll call my attorney’ and now today, everybody wants to take a photo at an accident scene or something. You know, we’re all there trying to help and people, instead of trying to help, they have their cameras hoping maybe they can sell a picture or whatever. Times have changed in that regard,” Lt. Andrzejewski continued.
Chief Stager, who was raised in West Toledo, said he got the motivation to enter police work from his wife Debby, who passed away nearly three years ago. But the notion originally came from his father.
“He told me because I really didn’t work hard in high school. My grades weren’t all that great,” And, he said, you should go into the military or become a cop,” Chief Stager said, laughing.
“Then, I met my wife when I transferred from DeVilbiss to Evergreen my senior year and she was always on the Dean’s List. She kind of motivated and inspired me. So, when I went to college I worked extremely hard so I could get good grades. In time, I was on the Dean’s List in college, too. My wife is probably the one who really motivated me the most in my life in education,” Chief Stager continued.
Several years after starting with the department, Chief Stager was promoted to sergeant, then conditional lieutenant for nearly two years, and he eventually became acting chief of police in December 2007 and appointed chief June 2008.
Chief Stager says his plans for retirement are mostly just to be “making the most of it.”
“I have a condo in Florida at St. Pete’s Beach, so I’ll be going back and forth when the weather gets nice up here closer to the end of April. When it’s time to cut grass I’ll come back,” Chief Stager said. “I have two sons and two grandkids that live in the area. I want to make the most of my life and enjoy it with them, too.”
Lt. Andrzejewski started as a patrolman January 1, 1978. He recalls duties involving truck-scale enforcement, bicycle patrol, DUI enforcement, and assisting with the vice unit and special response team in his early years.
Today, Lt. Andrzejewski oversees the department’s road division, but on January 21 when he becomes officially retired his options will remain open.
“I’ll take a little time, but I’ll definitely be looking for something,” Lt. Andrzewjewski said.
Officer Poddany came to Oregon police after working at the Lucas County sheriff’s office for one year. His first five years in Oregon were with road patrol, then he went to the detective bureau, and after some layoffs in the early 1980s he went back to the patrol division.
For the past 20 years, Officer Poddany has served as the department’s DARE officer, taking care of the elementary safety programs, Safety Town, and for the first 10 years of that he worked with the middle school programs.
The last three years, Officer Poddany was also the coordinator for Oregon’s representation of the Northern Border Initiative through the Ohio Department of Public Safety, basically working alongside U.S. Border Patrol and coordinating crossings on the U.S.-Canadian border.
“Actually, for years and years, no one even thought about it, and then after 9-11, it sort of took a different approach of people trying to come in and where they were trying to come in from,” Officer Poddany said. “Three or four years ago, Ohio initiated this and they used local agencies working on a team concept, which is basically put us on a boat with basically Michigan and Ohio officers.
“We found four boaters last year that had been missing for over 24 hours on a submerged boat and were able to bring all four of them on board and get them over to First Aid and everybody survived,” Officer Poddany continued “It was probably a highlight to a career.”